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Oct 4, 2017 5:17 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Court Annuls Ruling Exempting PSEG Long Island From Local Control In East Hampton Town

The Amagansett substation.  PRESS FILE
Oct 10, 2017 2:10 PM

An appeals court last week vacated an earlier ruling that PSEG Long Island is exempt from local zoning review—which means the decision cannot be used as a precedent exempting PSEG from local review of future projects, as East Hampton Town officials had feared.

The State Supreme Court Appellate Division, 2nd Department, issued the unanimous decision vacating both the lower court’s order and judgment on Wednesday, October 4, though it also ruled that any improvements made to the Amagansett power substation—which was at the center of the suit—during the appeal can remain.

Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell called that part of the decision “disappointing,” but he said the town is pleased that PSEG is not exempt from “local regulatory or permitting requirements.”

“This appellate decision is a victory for local planning, zoning and home rule,” Mr. Cantwell said in a statement issued Wednesday by Town Hall.

The court battle dates to October 2013, when a project began to upgrade the transmission capacity between the East Hampton and Amagansett substations with a new 6.2-mile overhead transmission line. In April 2014, the town issued a stop-work order “because the substantial modifications at the Amagansett substation did not have the benefit of site plan approval required by the East Hampton Town code,” the town’s press release on the decision stated.

PSEG sued the town, and a year later a State Supreme Court in Suffolk County ruled that PSEG was exempt from local regulations. The town appealed, but a request for a stay of the decision was denied and the work at the substation was completed.

Noting the town’s plan to achieve 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, Mr. Cantwell said that last week’s ruling gives the town regulatory control over the infrastructure improvements, “so that not only are the sustainable energy goals achieved but the natural beauty and character of our neighborhoods are preserved and protected.”

On Thursday, October 5, the supervisor said it was his understanding that the decision means that future utility projects in East Hampton Town will require site plan approval—including the planned relocation of the Montauk substation, for example.

“That’s the reason we appealed it,” Mr. Cantwell said of Justice Thomas F. Whelan’s decision in April 2015, noting that the decision would also have had consequences for other municipalities.

But a spokesman for PSEG Long Island downplayed the significance of the ruling.

“The appeal was dismissed as moot because there was no longer any actual controversy before the court—the stop-work order was rescinded and the work was completed,” Jeffrey Weir of PSEG Long Island said when asked to comment on Monday. “The appellate court also vacated the trial court’s order, which recognized LIPA’s exemption from local regulation,” he said, referring to the utility company that owns the power grid operated by PSEG.

Mr. Weir said last week’s decision to vacate the earlier decision does not mean that decision was wrong, or that the utility company’s exemption no longer applies.

“Rather, it simply means that the trial court’s decision is not legal precedent to support LIPA’s exemption,” he said.

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Who is paying the Town's legal bill on this fiasco?
By Amagansett Voter (43), Amagansett on Oct 5, 17 10:37 AM
The same people who will be paying more on the electric bills when "local control" will force utilities to jump through hoops and plate everything in gold to appease a connected few, the "friends of Larry". Same people who are going to pay millions for the Town to shut down their own airport to benefit a few "special" friends.

By Preliator Lives (270), Obamavillie on Oct 5, 17 11:47 AM
1 member liked this comment
Great, now we have politicians designing the electric grid.
Time to buy a generator.
By bird (690), Sag Harbor on Oct 6, 17 3:18 PM